Naseby was originally known as Parkers, named for the party of gold prospectors who first discovered gold in the area. Its name was changed to Naseby, either after Naseby in England, or after the battle of Naseby in the England of Cromwellian times.
In 1857 John T Thompson explored the area on an official survey and triggered a “run rush” by pastoralists. The first gold rush came to Naseby in 1863. Other rich fields were found nearby at Mount Buster and south across the Taieri River at Hamiltons. The 112 kilometre Mount Ida water race and sludge channel from Naseby to the Taieri River was constructed in 1877. Sluicing to recover gold was followed by dredging from 1890 with reasonable returns, but all dredging had finished by 1920 and Naseby, a major mining town, became a service centre for the Maniototo. By 1880 it had a courthouse, warden’s office, district hospital, several churches, a primary school, a Catholic school and several large hotels.
The railway from Dunedin to Ranfurly opened in 1898 and bypassed Naseby despite a strong fight from the Naseby people. A coach service was required from Naseby to connect with the trains at Ranfurly and the town gave way to Ranfurly as the administrative centre. The county office and hospital shifted to Ranfurly in the 1930s and a district high school at Ranfurly replaced the one at Naseby. The primary school at Naseby, which was opened in 1865, was closed in 1994 and children travel by bus the 14 kilometres to Maniototo Area School in Ranfurly.
In more recent times Naseby has become an important forestry centre with the initial forest being planted as early as 1900. Numbers of workers involved in the forestry industry have declined over time and this has adversely affected the permanent population of Naseby. The forest has had several owners or administrators over the last few years but current owners Ernslaw 1 take an active role in the area.
Naseby’s small permanent population numbers approximately 125 and is boosted at holiday time when the population can reach 4-6,000. Many of the original houses and cottages remain and many are popular as cribs for people from all over Otago and Southland.
(The Cyclopaedia of Otago and Southland, Vol. 1, Edited by Paul Sorrell, Published 1999).
It is hard to imagine that Naseby used to be such a bustling town with many hotels, banks, churches, a hospital and a school when you wander along Derwent Street today. With only around 100 permanent residents year round, Naseby still bursts into life throughout the year when people arrive to visit cribs (holiday houses), take part in events or just come to see the old world charm, historical landmarks and amazing recreational facilities that Naseby has today.
The combination of the extraordinary Central Otago climate (hot dry summers and frosty white winters) has meant that many of the township’s historic buildings and landmarks remain standing and delightfully original and the town is a year round destination with the different seasons providing a great variety of activities and experiences.
Central to the town is the large, grassy, recreational domain with the cricket crease in the middle and surrounded by huge trees that each represent the early settler’s history. Cricket is still a feature of summer weekends on the domain and every New Year’s Day, as far back as anyone can remember, the highlight of the year is the family fun day when the domain becomes a bustling hive of activity with good old fashioned family activities.
Naseby really does have something for everyone. You can do as much or as little, as you want.
The Forest Recreational Area is a working forest on the edge of town owned and operated by Ernslaw One. Even if town is bustling it is possible to head into the forest and wander along one of the 52km of tracks and feel like you are in your own world away from the hustle and bustle.
The tracks are for all activities, including; walking, hiking, running, orienteering, mountain biking, dog sledding, horse riding. There are even some dams that are perfect for fishing and swimming. Have a look at the Ernslaw One page for more information and any special permits, conditions for your chosen activity.
What’s in town these days?
You’ll find all you need in town these days! There is a store, pub, cafe and information centre, the Maniototo Early Settler museum. Unique activities with the indoor international curling rink, night sky tours in the light pollution free skies and top class mountain bike tracks. During the winter months, the outdoor ice rink and luge comes alive and the town turns into a winter wonderland.
The town does have good cell phone coverage and fibre is currently being installed and should be available by the end of 2020.
The Naseby Volunteer Fire Brigade has a history spanning back 150 years and is still operational today. The closest schools, medical and veterinary services are now located 15 minutes away in Ranfurly.